Rwanda – January 18 2018

Small investments go a long way

Ingabire Venantie is a widowed mother-of-four. A courageous and hard-working woman, she only needed a little support to overcome a difficult situation.

Ingabire, 49, says her life has been good since she enrolled in SOS Childrens’ Villages’ family strengthening programme two years ago. “The support given to me has changed my life, and I am proud of my family and myself,” she says.

Ingabire lives in Kayonza, a rural town in eastern Rwanda. Before she sought support, she struggled to make ends meet.

“I did not have all the skills that would have allowed me to take care of my children in the best way,” she says. “I was economically weak and psychologically depressed. It was difficult to meet basic needs for the household. I could not even feed my family twice a day. I worked alone, and when I had problems, I could not tell anyone about them.”

To sustain the family, Ingabire depended on traditional agriculture, but the production did not yield enough for her and her children. As she was unable to provide a guarantee, she did not have access to loans and could not afford livestock or even basic household items such as mattresses or clothes.

Today, Ingabire is a role model for others in the community. Her farm provides enough to sustain her family and she is known locally as a hardworking and determined woman.

Seizing opportunities to learn

Tides began to turn when the mother-of-four started attending various activities organised through the SOS family strengthening programme.

“I have benefited from different trainings, for example on child rights. I have also acquired new skills that have helped me to become more mindful of my children’s needs and my responsibilities as a mother. I now know how to follow the performance of my children at school, how to pay their health insurance on time and how to use the free time to support them to play in a smart way,” Ingabire says.

She learned how to plant and maintain a kitchen garden that would allow her to include vegetables in every meal, ensuring healthy nutrition for her children. She also received essential material support as an investment in her future, including tools for her garden, vegetable seeds and school supplies for the children.

“All those trainings have changed my mindset, and I now use new skills in my daily life,” Ingabire says.

New opportunities also opened up for her 20-year-old daughter. SOS Children’s Villages covered the school fees so she could attend a vocational training centre to study tailoring. She is now earning a small living herself and supports her mother with basic household expenses.

Community-based micro-financing

It was joining the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) in her community that helped Ingabire turn her farm into a productive agricultural project.

VSLAs are a micro-credit model that allows members, who, like Ingabire, would otherwise not be eligible for loans from other sources, to borrow money. The group members themselves pay money into the association’s funds, making them independent from external borrowers. Members also pay into a social fund that makes loans accessible for members in times of extraordinary financial need.

SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda supports VSLAs with basic supply kits including bookkeeping essentials and safe cashboxes that allow the self-managed groups to organise and run their association.

The SOS family strengthening team also trained Ingabire on VSLA management. After she joined the association, she was even elected President of the 19-member group.

Her main goal was to be able to afford her own animals, Ingabire recalls. Eventually, she wanted to be able to afford a cow.

With her first loan, she bought three goats and clothes. The following year, she used the loan to buy another goat and kids. She repaid the loan quickly and took out another one so she could start selling beans. With the revenue from selling her goats and the beans, she was eventually able to reach her goal – she was able to buy a cow.

The Village Savings and Loan Association helped Ingabire buy some livestock. 

“I now have enough manure for farming and I have increased my production. I can also pay for health insurance for six family members, and I am able to pay for school supplies for my grandchildren,” she says. “Many people could not believe that I could achieve all those things only through the VSLA. Now others have decided to join our VSLA too.”

Preparing the ground for the children’s future

But Ingabire has already set new goals: improving her living conditions and helping to prepare the ground for her children’s future.

“I want to renovate my house with cement, buy modern chairs, have electricity at home and help my daughter to start a tailoring workshop.”

Like many mothers, she wants her children to have a better life than she did.
“I had to drop out of school when I was in third grade, because my parents wanted me to stay at home and help them,” she recalls. “I will not do the same with my children. I want to help them to prepare for their future.”

For Ingabire, it is important that her children do not miss out on the opportunities that their parents did because they lacked experience.

“I want them to study, to have plans and objectives and to become independent in their lives. I am very proud of them; I know they will achieve great things,” she says.

Photos: SOS Archives